Free software, as in speech, without Makefile

Carsten Agger agger at
Fri Mar 20 10:41:56 UTC 2015

On 03/20/2015 11:26 AM, Paul van der Vlis wrote:
> Hello,
> Somebody asks me to support a nice program with a AGPL license.
> It is free as in speech, but not as in beer. If you want to use it for
> more then 5 users, you have to pay a fee,
That's fine! Anyone will be able to make a version with unlimited users 
with no fee requirement and distribute it, though!

> The source is available but the Makefile is missing. The developer says
> it's to make it a bit more difficult to build it yourself. Eventually
> for removing the registration.
> It's a complex Java program what depends on many third party components
> (all free), so maybe it's not so easy to make such a Makefile, no idea.
> What's your opinion?

It's up to developer whether to supply a Makefile with the source code 
or not.

However, I'd consider it bad form, and if that program ever becomes 
popular, someone could and should create a fork with the Makefile 
included. In a way, I'd say it undermines the intention of freeing the 
program, as it provides obstacles to people building their own version 
without "reverse engineering" the build process.  In all cases, 
discouraging people from building their own version contradicts the 
spirit of free software. It may also violate some free software licenses 
(though I can't think of any examples right now).

There's absolutely nothing wrong with creating free software with 
built-in registration requirements, but that does not mean that one 
should put obstacles in the way of users wanting to exercise freedom no. 
1. If you, as a supporter, can get the Makefile from the main developer, 
everyone else should be able to get it too.


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